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Willpower instead of Discipline

Hello everyone,

as you know, there is a whole hype around "Discipline", typically from Jocko Willing and the "Hustle" entrepreneurs.

I think the idea is totally right and the hype is deserved. Our life is the results of the efforts we make. Therefore, we get what we want when we force ourselves to do what we don't feel like doing (if it leads us to our goals of course).

My experience is that I struggled with the word "discipline". I tried to rename it "self-discipline" but it did not work better.

Then, listening to "Mate", I stumbled upon the idea that women like Willpower in a man. And it made sense to me.

What was difficult for me is that discipline is a bit abstract. Whereas Willpower I know what it is and I can control it.

I then listened to this book:

The Willpower instinct.

I recommend it. There is another book by one of the father of modern social psychology about it that I have not listened to yet.

To me Discipline was not actionable enough but Willpower is. I can will my way towards the things I want. That means: I can force myself to do things. So this was really helpful for me to change the idea of Discipline towards Willpower. (Meta: Actually I'm currently doing it: to do things after I come home from work at night is difficult for me, I'm a morning person.)

It's a simple idea but I hope it may be useful for you as well.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Thank you for sharing, John.

Yes, now that you mention it, I also like it a lot more.

Willpower sound and feels more:

  • Actionable
  • Self-directed, in the sense of "chosen", rather than "imposed" by, say, older decisions, processes, or external authorities
  • Neutral and adaptable, while "discipline" feels more right-wing, conservative, and associated with strict hierarchies and repeat-tasks, rather than "doing whatever works best"
Ali Scarlett and John Freeman have reacted to this post.
Ali ScarlettJohn Freeman
Community, new content and Confidence University moved here.

And I feel similarly about "habits", by the way.

The strictures of "discipline" and "habits"

Habits can be good, as long as they fit your goals and preferences, and as long as you can ditch or skip them as needed, in a blink of an eye.

Because habits can also become a stricture if you stick to them for too long—and people who value "habits" per se, often tend to stick to them for too long.

For example, think about the much-vaunted habit of "waking up at 4 am and working out"—Jocko Willink as well.

One may soon realize that missing sleep is not good for him, but since he values "sticking to the habit", he pushes on even while he deeply dislikes waking up at 4 am, and even while it's not good for him (I think you John mentioned something similar).

If instead one focuses on the end goal, such as feeling well and being reasonably in shape, he will be much more flexible, much quicker to change habits to something better, and without feeling any "emotional pain" to "breaking the habit" because he doesn't give an "F" about "sticking to the habit".

So, personally, I'm not a big fan of the "habit hype" either.
Or, at least, I prefer habits to be much shorter-term, goal-based, and environment-based.

Overall, I believe that if one is driven to achieve goals, he doesn't need to focus on habits much because actions will naturally align to achieving those goals.

Ali Scarlett, John Freeman and Mats G have reacted to this post.
Ali ScarlettJohn FreemanMats G
Community, new content and Confidence University moved here.

Great points.

And, the idea/concept of "forcing discipline" never worked/truly resonated for me either.

I have a bit of a different attitude toward willpower though:

Quote from John Freeman on February 14, 2023, 9:00 pm

(...)

...Therefore, we get what we want when we force ourselves to do what we don't feel like doing (if it leads us to our goals of course).

(...)

Or, when we make what we don't feel like doing so enjoyable that we're now happy to do it.

And, that's the "secret" to willpower, in my opinion:

Don't try to increase your willpower/discipline so it's easier to push yourself to do the hard things.

Try to increase the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards of the activity so you're happier to do the hard things. And, potentially set up anti-rewards so you're more concerned with the consequences of not doing it than the pain of going through with it.

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on February 15, 2023, 7:43 am

And I feel similarly about "habits", by the way.

(...)

...I prefer habits to much shorter term, goal-based, and environment-based.

Same here, but rather than goal-based, I prefer "identity-based".

Rather than thinking of the end goal being to feel well and be reasonably in shape, the identity being, "I'm the type of person who takes care of themself."

And then, from there, when you realize that a habit is doing more harm than good, it can make more sense—and be much easier—to drop a habit because it doesn't align with who you are anyway.

P.S.

By the way, these are ideas from Atomic Habits that have worked for me so far.

Lucio Buffalmano, John Freeman and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoJohn FreemanJackPower Duck

Great points, Ali.

Also this one:

Quote from Ali Scarlett on February 15, 2023, 1:28 pm

Rather than thinking of the end goal being to feel well and be reasonably in shape, the identity being, "I'm the type of person who takes care of themself."

Identity-based is great, and I wanted to add a caveat/difference with "goal-based":

Goal-based can be even more flexible than identity-based, and bring less "emotional burden", so to speak.

For example, if for 2 days you'd decide that you "must absolutely ship the updated version of TSS", then you can drop the "takes care of themselves" and, say, eat less, less well, or exercise less or even zero without feeling bad about it, or without betraying your identity.

Ali Scarlett and John Freeman have reacted to this post.
Ali ScarlettJohn Freeman
Community, new content and Confidence University moved here.

100% true man (and, great example, I might add :), thank you.

Lucio Buffalmano and John Freeman have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoJohn Freeman

Hello Lucio and Ali,

first my apologies for the time it took me to answer. You guys wrote things I wanted to have enough time and energy to answer properly. If I take time it means that it's important for me to answer properly.

Second, thank you very much for your answers as they are golden!

@lucio

This is a new concept to me and I think you are right. Sometimes we get stuck in habits that do not serve our goals. I used to build habits based on my yearly goals but I have to admit I never got to be really dedicated to them enough to do them on a consistent basis. So I think the "why" is very important and having a system to focus on a few goals is key. I'm not trying to think in terms of strategies and therefore habits have to be part of a strategy to reach a goal. In what you say I think it's important to take some distances with our desires to build habits. That is to think about it well and do it in a "smart way". Your post goes back to having more flexibility just like you talked about with "extreme ownership" vs "doing your best". Yes, it might be impressive that Jocko is waking up every day at 4am to do squats. But does it serve its current goals? Isn't he stuck in an old identity (the military guy) who's not serving him as well now? That is definitely a possibility.

In your case, I think you operate from a strong "why" and/or shorter-terms goals so this is maybe why you find it easier to stick to habits that serve those goals. You know better...

@Ali

And, that's the "secret" to willpower, in my opinion:

Don't try to increase your willpower/discipline so it's easier to push yourself to do the hard things.

Try to increase the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards of the activity so you're happier to do the hard things. And, potentially set up anti-rewards so you're more concerned with the consequences of not doing it than the pain of going through with it.

This is a very important concept. It is key. I'm learning from you and I'm going to move in this direction. It is the next level: to rewire one's brain in having pleasure in the process of doing difficult things.

There is one idea that I'm curious to know what you guys think about. It's the concept of the "resistance" from "the war of art". That is, there is a resistance we must overcome in order to reach our goals.

What I think is that most of the times, when we have difficulty to form a new habit it is due to unconscious processes. For instance, one of the biggest challenges in my life has been to go early to bed. I'm still working on it. Part of it comes from my parents not having had a very regular schedule or not making this something important: to go early to bed at a regular schedule. Another part is the child/adolescent part of me who still wants to enjoy and not go to bed. And this part in me is still strong enough that it is easier to procrastinate to go to bed than to go to bed. In of itself it's not difficult, I know I can. However, every night I face this resistance to go to bed. After this trip, I feel much more in control of my actions. I feel I could let go of unconscious baggage during this trip. In summary I think that it is unconscious patterns that are preventing us to form/let go of new habits. Fear/anxiety/old mental patterns. Because in reality it is not difficult. The difficulty is facing the emotions surrounding this behaviour. Every behaviour is just that: a behaviour. But we surround them with meaning that they don't have from our past experiences I believe.

Identity-based vs goal-based

These are great concepts and I agree with you. I think that they are opposed in the sense that identity-based carries strength: once you are this person you will carry the behaviour no matter what. Whereas Goal-based is more flexible. So probably it depends on what you want to achieve knowing this difference. If one wants to drill deep a behaviour (for life?) identity-based is stronger. If one wants to adopt a behaviour only for a short amount of time, probably goal-based is better. I'm probably paraphrasing here. Anyway, these are new concepts to me and food for thoughts.

Thank you very much!

Correction

I'm now trying to think in terms of strategies and therefore habits have to be part of a strategy to reach a goal.

I found the solution.

When he talks about discipline, as he says he talks about self-discipline.

I was wondering if this was conscientiousness but I think it is not.

Self-discipline is actually Self-Control

And for self-control one needs willpower. It's like the fuel of self-control. This is helpful for me in order to act on the concept. Self-Control speaks more to me than Self-Discipline or even willpower.

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